‘Intern Queen’ dishes out advice to students in new book

By Jackie Chambers

An internship is one of the most significant experiences students should complete before graduating college. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that students who worked in internships who went on to graduate from college had more success than students who did not participate in internships when finding jobs after graduation, according to collegeplus.org.

“In 2008 employers extended job offers to nearly 70 percent of their interns, up from 57 percent in 2001,” according to Collegeplus.org.

Author Lauren Berger developed a business and website titled “Intern Queen” to help students locate, apply for and learn about internships. Berger completed 15 internships during her four years in college including MTV, FOX and NBC, hence the nickname “Intern Queen.”

This year she wrote a book titled “All Work, No Play” in which she shares her experiences in the internship world, includes the benefits of internships and how to format the perfect resume and cover letter. She spoke with the Massachusetts Daily Collegian to give the University of Massachusetts some advice and tips on internships:

MDC: What should we, the students, be doing the most to find internships and job opportunities?

Berger: I think the best thing to do is go to career services like you would for a haircut. You should go to their office every six-to-eight weeks and talk to an advisor about your job plans and internship search. Students need to go in regularly. The mistake students make is not going back in and believing that magic will occur. By continuously going back in students can complete mock interviews, have their resume and cover letters reviewed and find alumni to network with. It’s a lot more popular to get an internship your junior and senior year in college but start interning and working with career services as soon as possible.

MDC: What was your favorite internship out of the 15?

Berger: Daily five. It was a national syndicated television show in Orlando, Fla. On my first day I blew up the coffee machine. It was a crazy internship experience because you had to be in the office at 4 a.m. My friends and roommates were up partying while I was saying “bye guys, I am off to commute to my internship.”

MDC: What advice do you give students on a budget or need to work during college and cannot afford to move to a big city such as Boston, New York City or Los Angeles?

Berger: Most unpaid internships are only 12-15 hours a week. Unpaid internships are normally not 40 hours a week, usually only the paid internships can reach 40 hours. An unpaid internship can allow students to be able to find a part time job. When I was a student I was interning, waiting tables, paying my bills. I am not a superhero.

When I interned in New York City, many of their colleges such as New York University offer housing programs during the summers. Having a security card to get into the building assured my parents in regards to safety. Also, university housing programs allow you to meet students all over the world. Some of my closest friends are from my first internships. Another way to combat the financial issue of internships is virtual internships. Virtual internships are very popular right now. Lastly, you can have a great experience in your local city and town.

MDC: What do you think of post-graduate internships? UMass offers post-graduate credits for students.

Berger: It really depends. Forever 21 offers fulltime, paid internships but cater to post grads. They are great recruiting tools for the entry level positions. For the post graduate internship there are great opportunities out there that are not as popular. You graduate and think there is a company or a program available you want to work for then go get that needed experience.

MDC: Do you think internships should be paid? What are the benefits to the unpaid internships?

Berger: I am conflicted. The positive stuff is that internships are getting more exposure and employers are looking at their programs and structuring them better. Some employers have internship programs for decades and haven’t revamped the program in a really long time. When in a bad situation and uncomfortable, talk to the HR department or career services, and try to solve the problem as soon as possible.

MDC: Does any internship show ANY employer that we are dedicated, hardworking and motivated? Or should internships be geared to a specific industry?

Berger: Absolutely go after whatever you’re interested in. Never feel restricted by your major. Just to have an internship on your resume is beneficial. Don’t waste your time. Use a career field you are potentially interested in. Go with whatever you think is going to be the best experience for you. One tip is to ask the employer to describe a typical day of an internship to you so you can learn more about the job description and make the decision if it’s a right fit for you or not.

MDC: In your experience, what letters of recommendations are stronger: internship coordinators, bosses at your job or a professor?

Berger: Sometimes the most well-known person is the strongest letter of recommendation. Make sure to build relationships with professors, career services, internship coordinators and your managers at your part time job. Those letters can go a long way. Ask them to write a unique letter about you since it will stand out and show why you are the right person out of the other hundred students going for the position.

MDC: Is social media damaging to a student’s career? Reports are conflicting in regards to social media as beneficial or damaging to a future career.

Berger: I’ve seen a lot of cases of social media leading to hiring or not being hired. One student tweeted they were bored at their internship and was fired. Students post pictures from their phones at their internship or comment on confidential people on their accounts which can lead to problems for the company and you being fired. Use these networks appropriately. 8.4 million individuals found jobs from Facebook this year.

I hear a lot of employers will spend a few minutes online and typing your name into Facebook and Twitter before they look at your resume. Does this happen with every company? No! But why lose a job from a photo of drugs, drinking, even kissing your boyfriend or girlfriend. An employer wants to have you represent them. They see you as a part of their team and you’re an extension to that and their brand.

MDC: What is your success rate as an intern queen?

Berger: In terms of people that go to our site, we have 80,000 students a month go on our website to apply for internships and gain some free internship advice or follow us on Twitter. We have placed a ton of students in internships. Ninety-five percent of employers have successfully found interns. But of course, the companies that you would never want to intern for. The ratio is a little off. We are not going to be able to help everyone. If I cannot give students the internship of their dreams I can maybe give them advice on the next step of their search. Internships are life changing and talk to any successful executive and they will say it all starts with an internship.

MDC: What advice do you give to students graduating this May? Any tips for the job search?

Berger: In my book “All Work, No Play” I have created the Lauren Berger Job Plan, the dream list. It allows you to identify the companies you want to work for, be organized and just keep track of all the resumes and cover letters you’ve sent out. Your job in college is to get a job, therefore make sure you take yourself seriously and spend four hours a day maybe from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. researching, networking and applying for jobs. You need to apply yourself, take initiative and stay connected with your network. Students graduating this May need to reconnect with their personal and professional networks now and let them know who you are.

You can follow Lauren Berger on Twitter @InternQueen to not only learn more about internships but also appropriate business attire, resume advice and cover letter advice.

UMass Amherst Career Services allows walk-in appointments every day from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on campus in Goodell Hall 511.

Jackie Chambers can be reached at [email protected].